As a historic and stylistic term, Colonial Revival can be a bit enigmatic. Architecturally, one might associate the term with broken pediments, shuttered windows, and symmetrical construction. In terms of objects, it might bring to mind quaint relics like spinning wheels, pewter tankards, and butter churns. At its core, though, what the term Colonial Revival refers to is largely fiction: its stylistic hallmarks, chosen seemingly arbitrarily and meant to connote “oldness,” point to a mythic American past, a time when life was slower, simpler, and more honest. Throughout the history of America, especially during times of technological and political uncertainty, people have been drawn to the symbolic meaning of the “Colonial,” its objects and forms running counter to the sometimes jarring, fast-paced world of Modernity. In the nineteenth century, a time notable for its massive industrial growth, Washington Irving used the romance and mystery of Colonial America’s uncharted land to craft stories like Rip Van Winkle and The Legend of Sleepy Hollow. In the rapidly expanding world of Post World War II America, new suburban homes were modeled after quaint Pre-Revolutionary War cottages, likely as an attempt to impart the familiar into a new concept.
Throughout the nation’s history, the Colonial has been rediscovered and reinvented generation after generation. Today, a new sort of Colonial Revival (or Re-revival) seems to be upon us, one that is more of a Colonial “Remix” than a strict return to the styles typically associated with the term. This newfound love for the myth of Old America, one that is fitting in its contrast to the sleek flat-screened technology of today, is more untamed—its pages are yellowed, its textiles are frayed, and its objects bear the distinct and imperfect signs of handicraft. This is Colonial for the twenty-first century, Colonial that both celebrates the forward-thinking and hopeful world of today and mourns the loss of simpler, less overwhelming times. Here, materials and forms one might commonly associate with the oftentimes stuffy Colonial style are reshaped and modernized. It is a mixture of old and new, one that, in its self-aware nostalgia, seems to be more honest and more authentic than the Colonial Revival’s previous iterations.
We’ve gone through the Design*Droits-Humains archives and pulled together some of our favorite spaces that, American or not, apply this beautiful aesthetic. Check out all of the photos after the jump! —Max
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